The Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) has criticised ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik for interfering with media freedom, following comments Moosa made about the political coverage of private station Villa TV (VTV).
VTV is owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, one of the country’s most successful businessmen.
In a press statement, the MJA “strongly condemned” remarks made by Moosa on August 17, when the MP publicly threatened “action” against VTV for “repeatedly misleading and broadcasting news in a way that smears respect for MDP”.
“After Gasim was arrested on accusations of corruption, VTV ran round the clock images showing a a burning picture of our Honorable President,’’ Moosa said. “It was encouraging citizens to create chaos.’’
Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News it was “typical” of Moosa to attack any media that “does not report the way he likes.”
The MJA meanwhile accused Moosa of attempting to “violate media freedom”, and “threaten journalists and media organisations.”
“MJA also sad to note that a senior official of MDP – a party known for voicing free media – has repeatedly slated the media… and incited public hatred against journalism,” the MJA said.
In a retaliatory statement, Moosa claimed “some TV stations were established with the intention to cause civil unrest among the citizens, smear the respect of political figures in the country, and bother their personal life.”
“I am astonished that the MJA is silent about this matter,” he said, adding that the fact media were airing such claims was evidence that media freedom existed.
This is not the first time Moosa has had a run-in with a privately-owned television station.
In March another private station, DhiTV, extensively covered a story in which four expatriate men were discovered loading 168 bottles of King Roberts gin and Muirhead whiskey into a car registered to Moosa, on the same day controversial liquor licensing regulations were unveiled by the Ministry of Economic Development.
“Whoever brought that booze out from their warehouse knew it would be confiscated,” noted the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, at the time. “Those brands are not what you would call hot sellers – it was menthol gin and watered-down whiskey.”
Moosa, who was in Singapore at the time, claimed his driver was “threatened or bribed” and the incident was a “politically motivated” attempt to discredit him, and noted that DhiTV “has been showing the incident non-stop for 24 hours.”
“The country’s economy in the past was in the hands of a few rich businessmen, and they are unhappy that the new government is not giving into their demands,” he said.